Naked People in Heaven

Thoughts about priorities and heaven on this 9/11.

Beautiful Life with Cancer

Instant bad mood.  I search around for my screaming phone on the floor under my bed.  The damn alarm clock continues to scream at the top of its lungs.  Slowly gaining control of my sleeping body, I step out of bed, pick up my phone and turn off the alarm.  The pain of waking up.  In heaven, I will roll over and enjoy the waking up process just as much as snuggling into bed and drifting off to sleep.  (That is if we sleep in heaven.)

My world runs about me in fast forward.  Honking impatiently at the slow moving car, spending what we don’t have for the newest item that hits the shelves, driving around our children to some place other than home.  Why do I join the insanity of the crowd?  I do believe in busying oneself with hard work, but that is not what is happening here…

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Remarried People

There is a fact that cannot be ignored in today’s society. A lot of people have been divorced, and quite a few have remarried. Not the ideal situation by any means, but still this is the reality in western culture. More often than not, it is the children, not the parents, who end up being the victims in these divorces, which I believe is a big reason God hates divorce.

But there are some today who, in their zeal to enforce biblical standards, have gone too far, and in some cases we are talking “Pharisee far”. They would say, based on an encounter Jesus had with the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 19, that in order to be saved, a married couple where one or both were previously married and divorced for reasons other than adultery must divorce as part of the repentance process. Otherwise, it is argued, they are in a perpetual state of adultery and will be lost. 

Well let’s take a look at what is recorded in Matthew 19, and also look at another passage where Jesus actually engages in a dialog with a divorced person and see what we can glean from it. 

Matthew 19:3-12

Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” They *said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give her A certificate of divorce and send her away?” He *said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

The disciples said to Him, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.” But He said to them, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.”

First of all, in context, Jesus is answering a question specifically about the Law of Moses that was put to him by the Pharisees. His answer is specific to the Law and the covenant which they were under at that time. If we can’t use the thief on the cross to discuss salvation because it was said under the Old Law, then we can’t use this, either to condemn those whose marital lives have been marred by the pain of divorce. Furthermore, NOWHERE in the New Testament does Jesus or any of the Apostles tell someone to get a divorce prior to baptism or else they could not be saved! To add that as a requirement is to add to the Scriptures! 

Rather than use Matthew 19’s conversation with the Pharisees, let’s look at an episode where Jesus actually addresses a divorced person’s life situation and see what he says to her! 

John 4:16-18

He *said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus *said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.”

In this woman’s life, she had been married five times, and was now cohabiting with a sixth man. Now according to the modern day legalists Jesus would have told her to be a eunuch for the kingdoms sake and never remarry. In their view, she would be an adulteress to remarry because God doesn’t recognize divorces that don’t involve sexual immorality, and she would in effect have five husbands simultaneously. But notice carefully what Jesus says to her. “You have had five husbands”, not you “have” five husbands. Jesus, who only said what the Father said, addressed her as an unmarried woman. He spoke nothing of perpetual adultery, a phrase unknown to Scripture. 

We’re some of her divorces due to immorality? Possibly, but we cannot read into the Scripture something that is not there. Such practices are dangerous and hermeneutically unsound. No, Jesus met her where she was at and talked about a new life. 

The Roman world was replete with divorce and remarriage, and yet the Apostles, who earlier had witnessed this encounter in Samaria, never once told someone to divorce their spouse prior to baptism. Not one single time in Acts or in the Epistles! That is a fact that is significant by its absence. Do we really want to imply that murdering your spouse is preferable to divorce because then you are free to remarry?

So what do we say to those who have gone through the pain of divorce and have remarried? We should live them and point them to Jesus. Make disciples and show them how to pray and study the Word of God. But to tell them to divorce will bring shame and disrepute upon the name of Christ, as we gain a reputation for splitting up families. If they are now married, they should pray and discern whether or not they have the ability from God to stay single for the Kingdom, or to remarry. But support their decision and don’t attempt to persuade them either way to violate their renewed conscience. 

  

Blessing Turning Into A Curse

Well the 4th of July celebrations are winding down. It has been a day of fun, fellowship, and reflection about the course our country is on. Generously dotted among the phrases we have heard today is the ever-popular “God bless America”, and with good reason. When it comes to God, you want His blessing headed our way. But my spirit has been troubled and I believe we are either on the brink, or have entered into a season of judgment for our national sins and utter disregard for God. Take a look at what the prophet Malachi had to say to his own people who assumed that because of their national citizenship they had the blessing of God. 

“And now this commandment is for you, O priests. If you do not listen, and if you do not take it to heart to give honor to My name,” says the LORD of hosts, “then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings; and indeed, I have cursed them already, because you are not taking it to heart. Behold, I am going to rebuke your offspring, and I will spread refuse on your faces, the refuse of your feasts; and you will be taken away with it. (‭Malachi‬ ‭2‬:‭1-3‬ NASB, emphasis mine).

This nation has been privileged like no other nation before it with freedom of religion and has been a bastion of Christian preaching, education, and missionary zeal. But over the last decades, we have wandered into godless territory. We have the blood of over 55 million babies on our hands. We have, as a society, slipped down the slope of moral relativism into a quagmire of sin that was unimagined 75 years ago. We have set up idols of wealth, fame, and success and worshipped them. It is as if we are bowing in front of mirrors saying “my kingdom come, my will be done, on earth, in spite of Heaven.”And we have reached a point where God in in sovereign justice will have no choice but to judge us for our national crimes.

When any people reach this point in their spiritual lethargy, our spoken blessing of God, and the very blessings we have received from God, are turned into a curse! Every time we presume upon the blessing of God without thought of repentance, our blessing is a slap in the face of Divine Justice. We have gotten beyond the position of just needing to say, “America, bless God”. Without another Great Awakening characterized by true national repentance, our blessings which have turned into cursing will not open the windows of Heaven for a blessing, but rather are storing up wrath for the Day of Wrath. Just as Malachi relayed from God, we will be thrown out like yesterday’s garbage.

Enough of feel good, self help, commercialized, WIIFM (what’s in it for me) Christianity! Be done with playing religious games and marketing the church to the world. Quit using carnal means to attract carnal people so we can get them to say the magic words and sign a card. We must go from being seeker sensitive to being Jesus sensitive! Judgment begins at the house of God, and repentance needs to begin there as well.  

I, for one, am going to stop saying “God bless America” and substitute “God save America” in its place. I don’t know how many birthdays our nation has left, but we as the church must do all we can to allow the Holy Spirit once again to cleanse us and empower us by grace to be a light set on a hill that shows the path back to God. If we shirk this duty, the Sovereign of the Universe and and will hold us responsible! 

For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (‭1 Peter‬ ‭4‬:‭17‬ NASB) 

Wishing For Living Idols

First of all, the seed of an idea that the Lord planted in my mind for this post came from hearing a short portion of a Sunday sermon from last week by Pastor Scott Hagan from Real Life Church in Sacramento. Not only is he spot on, but we graduated from high school together, so he must be cool, too! 

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (‭Exodus‬ ‭20‬:‭4-6‬ NKJV)

Idolatry. Perhaps no other sin is as universally condemned in Scripture as idol worship. A curse came with making something with men’s hands and worshipping it. No matter the quality of the workmanship, and how fervently you hope and dance and cut yourself and worship, that idol will never be the Living God. It just won’t happen.

But that is precisely what is going on right now with the gay “marriage” debate. People are using logic, law, and doing everything in their power to make same-sex marriages a reality. But the truth is, that no matter how many marches, and court decisions and laws that human beings pass, it will never be a REAL marriage. Here’s why. 

and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? (‭Matthew‬ ‭19‬:‭5‬ NKJV)

God made this principle clear in Genesis, and jesus quoted it here in Matthew. He made the principle clear. Man joined to wife equals one flesh. But just to make sure we don’t miss it, Jesus says this in the very next verse. 

So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (‭Matthew‬ ‭19‬:‭6‬ NKJV)

Did you catch that? The husband and wife don’t join themselves together, nor does a minister join them. God is the one who makes the two of them one flesh as husband and wife! No matter how people hope and pray and litigate and legislate, anything other than this has not been joined together by God and is therefore not a marriage. And my opinion and your opinion have no bearing on the matter! To teach otherwise is to make a God in our own image, and have Him do what we wish Him to do. But that amounts to idolatry, and brings a curse instead of the desired blessing!

So what are we to do? We are to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). And know this; you cannot speak a lie in the love. God is love, and He cannot lie. Satan is the father of lies, and has no love in him. In fact, the most spiritually dangerous thing we could ever do is to speak a lie and attribute it to God! No, the most loving thing we can do is to tell the truth about same-sex marriage with as much love and compassion as we can. But it must be grounded in truth! 

We must show our love by proclamation of the truth laid down by the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. (‭I Corinthians‬ ‭6‬:‭9-10‬ NKJV)

But we are to do so humbly and in love, knowing that we all have besetting sins which we all fight on a daily basis. We must tell of the power of God to deliver anyone from the grip of the strongest sin! Our faith and our message must rest, not on human wisdom, but on the delivering power of God. That’s why Paul goes on to say this:

And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (‭I Corinthians‬ ‭6‬:‭11‬ NKJV) 

We must hold out this message of hope and deliverance to anyone and everyone who will listen, homosexual, heterosexual, or anyone else! Without altering the Word of God or lowering His standards, we must tell the world that Christ came to save sinners, so that qualifies each of us for His salvation. We are not judging anyone. We are letting them know that God has already judged everyone, including them, and that we are all sinners in need of a Savior.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. (‭Romans‬ ‭5‬:‭8-9‬ NKJV) 

When this is our message, we will be the God honoring, Christ exalting, Gospel spreading, disciple making, and people loving Church that we are commissioned to be in this World! 

Six Step Downward Spiral of a Society

So now we ask the inevitable question in this country, namely, “how did we get to this place?” 
Well, thankfully, Romans chapter 1 verses 18 – 32 gives us a verbal flow chart, a trail to twisted thinking if you will, that outlines the downward spiral of a debased society. The end result of this spiral is stated at the outset. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,”

Step 1: in spite of the obvious design in nature, the society adopts an alternative (i.e. Godless) and materialistic philosophy. In doing so, they suppress the truth!

“who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”


Step 2
: The society no longer sees the need to honor God. This results in futile thinking, and darkening of the mind. What this means is that they lose the ability to see the hand of God in creation. There is a complete lapse of spiritual discernment. 

 “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”

Step 3: God gives the society up to what they desire with their futile minds, and they fall into self deception and to defiling themselves with the very actions the society once instinctively knew to be impure.

 “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”

Step 4: Natural passions are discarded in favor of unnatural passions, including specifically burning with lust for those of the same gender.

“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” 

Step 5: God turns His back on a society that refuses to acknowledge His right to govern their consciences, and then every other unrighteousness evil fills up society’s behavior as the new “normal”.

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

Step 6: in spite of their collective memory that such things are sinful, they flaunt their sin and give their wholehearted support to the so-called courageous ones who defy the law of God. So after this step, we arrive at the judgment of God, who reveals His wrath because the society refuses to repent.

 “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (‭Romans‬ ‭1‬:‭18-32‬ ESV)

So what is the solution to this mess of our own making? The answer was given to Ezekiel long ago, and is an eternal spiritual principle of our unchanging God. We have two major missions as the people of God; warning and intercession!

Warning:

“So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.
“If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.

 “And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Thus have you said: ‘Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them. How then can we live?’

“Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (‭Ezekiel‬ ‭33‬:‭7-11‬ ESV)

Failure to warn our society is a sin of omission and an act of hatred, even if they do not want to hear our warnings!

Intercession, combined with our repentance:

“if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (‭2 Chronicles‬ ‭7‬:‭14‬ ESV)

Notice we as God’s people, need to turn from our own wicked ways and seek heaven’s healing for our land. If we as the church repent and humble ourselves before God, then God will heal our land. It won’t happen by praying against those who are lost, but by the Church bowing in humility and the fear of the Lord that will turn this nation around. 

Our Best For God

It all started out so well. The people were amazed at the strength and power of their God, and had seen His love for them manifested in their deliverance from bondage in Egypt. As the people of God are taught what the Lord required of them, they were given the greatest commandment, recorded in
Deuteronomy 6:5

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

Nothing was to be held back when it came to their single hearted devotion to God. It was to be a love offering of their entire being; heart, soul and mind. But as years passed, a familiarity set in that morphed into contempt. What was once offered as an overflow of gratitude to God became an obligation and duty. Eventually it was looked on as a burden to be borne out of tradition, even while resented. And they acted like it, too. The spotless offerings were changed into leftovers, spares, and animals that would not cost them anything to lose.

Enter the prophet Malachi. God speaks to His people and confronts them with their heart condition when it came to worship.

Malachi 1:6-8
“A son honors his father,
And a servant his master.
If then I am the Father,
Where is My honor?
And if I am a Master,
Where is My reverence?
Says the Lord of hosts
To you priests who despise My name.
Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’
“You offer defiled food on My altar,
But say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’
By saying,‘The table of the Lord is contemptible.’
And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice,
Is it not evil?
And when you offer the lame and sick,
Is it not evil?
Offer it then to your governor!
Would he be pleased with you?
Would he accept you favorably?”
Says the Lord of hosts.

God wanted the best from His people, not the cast offs. They would have been better off not worshipping at all than to offer polluted offerings to God. The Lord puts things I. Perspective for the people in verses 11 – 13:

Malachi 1:11-13
For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down,
My name shall be great among the Gentiles;
In every place incense shall be offered to My name,
And a pure offering;
For My name shall be great among the nations,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
“But you profane it,
In that you say,
‘The table of the Lord is defiled;
And its fruit, its food, is contemptible.’
You also say,
‘Oh, what a weariness!’
And you sneer at it,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
“And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick;
Thus you bring an offering!
Should I accept this from your hand?”
Says the Lord.

“Wow!”, you might say. “They really messed up. It’s a good thing we are in no danger of that happening to us, since there are no animal sacrifices for worship now”. But wait, there are sacrifices of worship. They just are not animals anymore. But they are offerings of worship in they same way as before, and God expects our best.

Hebrews 13:15-16
Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

Did you see that? We have sacrifices to give, just like they did. Verse 15 parallels the command to love the Lord our God with our soul, mind and strength, while verse 16 is about loving our neighbor as ourself. You see, whenever we spend time in worship to God, He expects it to be with our entire being. That doesn’t mean that worship has to be an aerobic workout. It does mean that we need to be fully engaged in what we are doing during worship. Focusing on other things, offering half hearted or distracted worship, or inwardly despising and diminishing worship will produce a polluted offering to God!

We each need to examine ourselves when it comes to our worship. Are we doing things out of routine and obligation, or out of love and devotion? Do we look forward to worship, or see it as an interruption? I challenge us all to be fully present during worship today, with our mind, soul and strength focused on our awesome God. Don’t insult Him by offering any less than your very best!

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Infants Who Die

On November 2nd, 2001 our daughter Sarah Elizabeth was born. Tragically, she passed from this life eight hours later, after midnight on November 3rd. These two days have been rough for me ever since that time. John Piper once compared grief over the death of a child to an amputation. Unlike a gunshot wound, once the healing is done, the arm is still missing. Then follows the feelings of loss over what might have been and dealing with the gone-ness that will never be resolved this side of eternity.

On question that comes up occasionally is that of what happens to infants when they die. I am completely sure that God saves them and takes them to heaven, but what do I base that on from Scripture? Glad you asked.

It is not that infants are not fallen along with Adam like the rest of mankind. They are. Romans chapter 5 makes that abundantly clear. It is, however, a matter of accountability before God. I would begin with what jesus said to the Pharisees in John 9:41.

” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.”

The culpability is based on their ability to see what jesus taught, but rejecting it. Because they had been exposed to the truth and rejected it, the were still in their sins. Infants cannot perceive the message and have no sin in this regard.

But what about those who have never had the Gospel preached to them? Paul addresses that question in Romans 1:19-20 and it directly pertains to what we are speaking about here.

Romans 1:19-20
” because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”

What is of necessity implied here, is not only that those who have not formally heard about God have no excuse because of how God has revealed Himself in the natural world, but that those who are incapable of reasoning and observing creation DO have an excuse! This would mean not only small children, but also those with mental capacities so severely diminished that they are unable to perceive God in creation.

So based on those Scriptures, along with others, I would tell parents who have lost a child that they will see that child again, and that their loss is not an eternal one. Of course that assumes that the parents are believers, too so that they can be in heaven as well.

God is able to cover those who have an excuse due to early age or mental capacity due to His mercy, and the shed blood of Jesus for sin. In the end, what was written in Psalm 119:68 will still be true of God.

Psalms 119:68a
” You are good, and do good;”

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